Street harassment like wolf-whistling catcalling is ‘degrading and disgusting’ and makes many women feel deeply unsafe, according to an Irish journalist.
Her.ie Head of Content Niamh Maher was speaking after model and presenter Glenda Gilson said she doesn’t view wolf-whistling as offensive and said people should take it as a compliment.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, Gilson said: “Don't take it too seriously; a whistle's a whistle, someone's paying you a compliment.
“They noticed you as you walked by, so I think 'Ah sure, thanks a lot’”.
On The Hard Shoulder, Ms Maher said she disagrees wholeheartedly.
“You should never be made to feel unsafe by anybody in the street,” she said. “I can only speak from my own experience, but I have experienced street harassment in a way that made me feel deeply unsafe on numerous occasions.
“It makes me feel degraded; it is disgusting. Why anybody feels the need to comment on my body is beyond me and I will never take it as a complement.”
The Her.ie journalist said she has experienced many forms of street harassment – including one incident when a group of men pulled up in a car and started shouting at her to get in.
She also told Kieran about another incident where she was approached by a man near Pearse Street station in Dublin.
“It was summertime so I was wearing a tank top and he came within an inch of my face and said, ‘Nice Tits’ directly into my face and kept walking.”
“When I say I was shocked … I was stopped in the middle of the street, completely not expecting somebody to come into my personal space firstly and then secondly, to make a comment about my body like that.
“The person who was walking behind me also stopped and looked at this man because as I turned to look at him, he looked back and nodded at me as if to say, yes, I reinforce what I just said to you.”
She said a woman would never get away with acting like that if the roles were reversed.
“If I was to do direct comparison of what happened to me, I would be walking down the street and I would whisper into a man’s face, ‘Nice Penis’ and keep walking,” she said.
“In what world would that be acceptable?
“Is it because I have breasts it’s OK for this compete stranger to say nice tits and I should take it as a complement?”
Ms Maher said asking people to take street harassment as a complement only minimises a problem that can leave women feeling demeaned and intimidated.
“I’ve responded to people who have wolf whistled at me before and it’s only asking for trouble because then you get heckled in a more aggressive way and you don’t feel safe,” she said.
“There’s no good way to deal with this. The way we’re being taught to deal with it is either just take the complement and keep walking or keep your mouth shut so you can be safe.
“Why are we in a position that we have to deal with this in any way? We shouldn’t have to deal with this in any manner or form. It shouldn’t be happening at all.”
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